Note … Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir ForceArizona StateArizonaOregonWashington State

2019 Game Eight – Colorado v. USC, Friday, October 25th, 7:00 p.m., MT, ESPN2

Related … “USC Trojans try to rebound from losing season” … from the Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera …After some tumultuous times that included multiple coaching changes early in the decade, the Southern California football team seemed to finally settle into a groove under Clay Helton.

Now, Helton is sitting on the hottest seat in the Pac-12.

Coming off a dismal 5-7 season – its first losing record in since 2000 – USC is no longer viewed as the class of the Pac-12 South, but aims to regain its swagger. This month, is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on the Trojans, who will visit the Buffaloes on Oct. 25.

Beating Stanford for the Pac-12 title in 2017 completed a 22-game stretch in which the Trojans lost just twice. That came with the exceptional Sam Darnold at quarterback, but he declared for the NFL Draft after that season (going third overall, to the New York Jets).

Last year, the Trojans leaned on a new group of playmakers on offense – including true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels – and it was a rocky road. They ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in scoring, rushing and total offense. They were in the bottom half of the conference in the major defensive categories, as well.

It all added up to a 1-5 finish to the season and some raised eyebrows when athletic director Lynn Swann elected to retain Helton as coach.

Continue reading story here

Last game between Colorado and USC – October 13, 2018

… USC 31, Colorado 20 … 

Game Story … USC freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a 31-20 victory over No. 19 Colorado. Daniels hit wide receiver Michael Pittman for two of those scores late in the second quarter, taking a 7-7 game and making it a 21-7 halftime lead for the Trojans.

CU all-everything wide receiver Laviska Shenault led the Buffs in both rushing and receiving. Shenault had nine receptions for 72 yards, but was held without a receiving touchdown for the first time all season. Shenault also had two carries for 46 yards, including a 49-yard scamper for a touchdown early in the second quarter, giving the Buffs a 7-0 advantage, the CU’s only lead of the game.

Steven Montez hit on 25-of-46 passes, well below his season average of over 75% completions. Montez had 168 yards passing, adding a 19-yard touchdown run late in the contest. Montez also threw a pick-six early in the third quarter, making it a 28-7 USC advantage.

Continue reading story here

… Essay for the game … “Un-Lucky 13 – Buffs fail to break through (again) against the Trojans” … can be found here

2018 USC results – 5-7 (4-5 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 USC National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 91st … 26.1 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 107th (10th in the Pac-12) … 133.5 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 48th … 249.1 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 84th (10th in the Pac-12) … 382.6 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 USC National Rankings (Defense) …

— Scoring – 64th … 27.0 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 67th … 164.8 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 61st … 223.3 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 60th … 388.1 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

USC storylines … 

– The Clay Helton saga … 

Colorado finished the 2018 season with a 5-7 record; USC finished the 2018 season with a 5-7 record.

The Buffs finished the 2018 season on a seven-game losing streak; the Trojans finished the 2018 season losing five of their last six games.

Colorado, which suffered its 12th losing season in 13 years, fired its head coach; USC, which suffered its first losing season since 2000, (surprisingly) kept its head coach.

Check out almost any coaches hot seat rankings, and you’ll find USC head coach Clay Helton atop the list.

What the pundits are saying:

From Athlon … No. 1 on hot seat list – Helton was never fully embraced by the USC faithful, even as he won a Rose Bowl (2016) and Pac-12 title (2017) in his first two full seasons on the job. So it’s safe to say his approval rating is at an all-time low after the Trojans slumped to 5-7 in 2018. Helton shook up his staff in the offseason and will be expected to show significant progress this fall.

From Lindy’s … No. 1 on hot seat list – We liked the original hire because Helton was the much-needed adult in the room, and USC should recruit itself, even without a dynamic personality at the helm. But Helton hasn’t proven he can win when he doesn’t have Sam Darnold at quarterback, going a bleh (for USC) 31-17 since taking over for Steve Sarkisian in the 2015 season. Hiring Graham Harrell as offensive coordinator is Helton’s Hail Mary. 

It’s put up or shut up time for Clay Helton at USC.

Players make plays

New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell claims that he wants the USC offense to “take it easy”, and that he has only four rushing plays in his playbook.

The Mike Leach disciple will have his quarterback throwing the ball early and often, but it remains to be seen who will be the Trojans’ quarterback by the time USC makes it to Boulder in late October.

Sophomore J.T. Daniels was the wunderkid freshman to open the 2018 season, and Daniels is the favorite of head coach Clay Helton, but new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell was impressed this spring with the play of another sophomore, Jack Sears. The final decision is supposedly in the air, and won’t be made until fall camp.

Whichever quarterback takes the reins, there is a full stable of talented wide receivers with which to work. Receivers Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughn are seen as the best wide receiver trio in the Pac-12 (yes, even better than CU’s).  When and if the Trojan quarterback hands the ball off, it will be to either Vavae Malepeal and Stephen Carr, who between them had almost 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns last fall.

The issue for the USC offense is the line, which allowed 27 sacks in 2018 and ranked 107th in rushing offense. Of that unit, only two starters return, though the Trojans, like the Buffs, are counting on a graduate transfer to step in at tackle (in USC’s case, it’s former Tennessee volunteer Drew Richmond).

If the offense sounds a little shaky in Year One of the Graham Harrell, you should see the defense.

The Trojans have only four returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, as the entire defensive backfield must be replaced. Heading into the 2019 campaign, fully half of the scholarship defensive backs are incoming freshmen.

For the USC defense to be successful, a veteran defensive line must assert itself. Defensive tackles Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu take up space in the interior, while defensive ends Christian Rector and Drake Jackson will bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks from the outside. Tufele is an All-Pac-12 candidate … one of the few for the Trojan defense.

Despite all of the question marks, USC is being looked upon as being the main challenger to Utah in the Pac-12 South this fall.

We’ll see if that plays out …

How the Buffs fit into the Trojans’ 2019 schedule

Colorado and USC have more in common than matching 5-7 records from the 2018 season.

Both teams could be better in 2019 … and both could fail to see an improvement in their records.

USC didn’t have Washington or Oregon on the schedule in 2018, but pick up the Huskies and Ducks this fall. The Trojans also trade a Mountain West pushover (UNLV) for a Mountain West favorite (Fresno State) in non-conference play.

Try and find a gimme game in the USC schedule leading up to the CU game on October 25th:

  • Fresno State
  • Stanford
  • at BYU
  • Utah
  • at Washington
  • at Notre Dame
  • Arizona

If USC can beat Stanford, Utah, and Washington, they will come to Boulder nationally ranked and the leading contender for the Pac-12 South division title.

If USC comes to Boulder with a losing record … the Buffs could be facing a team with an interim head coach.

Bottom Line

Colorado and USC have similar problems heading into the fall. Their offenses have talented wide receivers, but questionable line play. Their defenses have some talent in the front seven, but issues in the defensive backfield. Both teams face tough non-conference schedules, and a ramp up in the quality of Pac-12 North cross-over opponents.

And yet, no one is projecting anything but a last place Pac-12 South finish for Colorado, while some prognosticators have USC in their Top 25.

USC is USC, and Colorado, for the past decade-and-a-half, hasn’t been Colorado.

CU head coach Mel Tucker has targeted USC as the Buffs’ main Pac-12 rival, much as Bill McCartney targeted Nebraska as CU’s main rival when he came to Boulder in 1982.

Before the Buffs beat the Cornhuskers in 1986, the losing streak against Nebraska had reached 19 games.

Colorado has played USC 13 times in its history, losing all 13 games.

If you are a believer in fate, or karma, or some other outside force in the universe, you can thank ESPN for setting the table for CU’s first win over USC.

The game was slated for Saturday, October 26th, but was moved back a day so that the game could be shown to a nationwide audience.

The significance?

As noted, Bill McCartney broke through against Nebraska with a 20-10 win in 1986.

October 25, 1986.

Thanks to ESPN moving the game to a Friday night contest, this year’s game against USC will be played on … October 25th.

Karma, do your thing …


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